Arms to Israel came through Shannon

  • 2 August 2006
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Unauthorised Israeli air force plans have come through Shannon and aircraft carrying munitions for Israel have also gone through the airport. By Colin Murphy

Ireland has provided landing facilities for the Israeli military and for cargoes containing Israeli Apache attack helicopters in recent months. Israeli Patriot missiles have previously been transported via Shannon with the authorisation of several Government departments.

Israeli Air Force Boeing 707 jets landed at Shannon airport on 23 April and 5 May. The Department of Foreign Affairs has not released details of their purpose or whether clearance was given for their landing. The spokesman for the Israeli embassy, David Golding, said no Israeli Air Force planes had landed at Shannon and that the only Israeli traffic through Shannon was in passengers. Informed of the Israeli Air Force jets at Shannon, he said, "maybe there were technical failures".

On 26 February, a commercial cargo flight carrying three AH-64 Apache helicopters from the US to Israel landed at Shannon. The flight did not have the necessary clearance from the Department of Transport. The airline, Volga Dnepr, said it had been forced to land at Shannon due to technical problems. (Volga Dnepr has a maintenance station at Shannon.) Two days later, the same aircraft returned from Israel, this time carrying six Apache helicopters. Again it did not have clearance, even though this was a scheduled stop. Volga Dnepr subsequently told the Department of Transport that there were no munitions on the helicopters and that the company therefore did not need clearance. The US Embassy released a statement saying that the helicopters, which were part of a "Foreign Military Sales case" to Israel, were dismantled and did not contain any hazardous cargo or munitions.

According to the Department of Transport, the Apache helicopters and similar military equipment are considered to be weapons for the purposes of Irish law, and clearance should have been requested by the company. A spokesperson for the Department said a "review into the carriage of munitions and dangerous goods" had been initiated but not yet finalised.

David Golding of the Israeli embassy said the transport of military equipment to Israel through Ireland was "nothing to do with us". "We've no say over where they go", he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said, "permission will not be granted to any application for the transport of munitions of war to Israel during the current crisis".

Mary O'Rourke, then Minister for Public Enterprise, approved a cargo of Israeli Patriot missiles for landing at Shannon in June 2001. The missiles were being transported to the US, from Israel, for repair. The cargo contained 28 Patriot missiles, each containing 44k of high explosives and 498k of rocket fuel. The missiles were transported in a sealed canister. This is according to a fax sent to the Department of Public Enterprise by the Israeli Ministry of Defence. The Patriot is a US-made surface-to-air missile used in Israel's missile defence system.

Following receipt of the application, officials at the Department of Public Enterprise contacted the Departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Justice, and the Irish Aviation Authority. None of these objected to the application. Documents referring to the Patriot missiles request indicate that departmental inquiries into the request were sparse. In a fax to the Irish Aviation Authority, an official in the Department of Public Enterprise wrote, "if I do not hear from you, I will assume that you have no objections to the request". There is a handwritten note on the fax which reads "no objections per phone call".

These documents were released to Edward Horgan in the course of his case against the Irish Government over its decision to allow the US military use Irish facilities in the course of the war in Iraq. The documents were released as a sample of a typical application for clearance to transport munitions through Ireland.